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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:48 pm 
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Hello!

I've just bought a wooden piccolo (probably), in a charity shop in a moment of insanity, or perhaps enlightenment. Now I have no idea how to deal with it, apart from registering here, as you lot seem to have a lot of expertise.

Next, to try and work out how to get photos in...

Fiona


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:37 pm 
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pictures are always appreciated.

Any moving parts? (keys, how many)

They're just like little flutes,
the "little" thing does cut into the margin of error...
a lot :D

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:57 pm 
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Please bear with me, as I'm not sure what I'm doing with Picasa either!

Image

Right, that looks a sensible size in the preview. The bottom one is an ordinary descant recorder for scale; the top one is an instrument I bought in the Hospice shop on the spur of the moment. I had a (metal) concert flute mumble years ago, but passed it on as I wasn't using it, and have only recently wondered about replacing it. So, this seemed like a good idea at the time. As far as I can tell from experimental blowing and the internet it is a D piccolo. It is made of heavy, dark wood with 6 holes in a straight line and 4 nickel (?) keys. I can't see any cracks and it seems pretty airtight with the holes blocked. However, it is in serious need of a clean, especially inside and around the keys - it looks as though it has been polished on the easy bits. It has a lot of sticky gunk on it which is soluble in soapy water or surgical spirit, but not in almond oil. The head joint rotates but I can't remove it. There is a very slight gap between the two parts. Three of the keys work fine, but the one second from the bottom takes about a second to return after pressing it.
I started to clean with a slightly damp bit of t-shirt around the keys and in the mouth hole, and then a cotton bud in alcohol (surgical spirit) in the mouth hole, but as I read more became more concerned about damaging it (as opposed to it poisoning me, which is where I started.)
I realise that it is going to need an expert at some stage, certainly for the pads which are very hard and glazed looking, but I would like to get it to a point where I could decide whether it was worth spending money on. So I thought I would ask for advice on here, as so many of my searches seemed to end up here. In particular:
-I read about using meths to clean an old flute - can I use Surgical spirit instead as that is what I have?
-If I use soap and water how do I stop it cracking the wood?
-Should I try to remove the head?
-Is there anything sensible I can do to free up the sticky key?
-How should I keep it, as it has no case?
There are more pictures here of the grottier bits (What joy!), assuming I have the settings on Picasa right.
https://picasaweb.google.com/110249962628751592500/PiccoloPics?authkey=Gv1sRgCML28N_P4YH_zQE

Thank you in advance
Fiona

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:08 pm 
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easy there... a couple of others will be along after a bit with cleaning instructions :lol:

four key then...
the first one is Bb finger A XXO OOO and use yer thumb to sharp the A to Bb
the next one ya know... G#
the 3rd is F natural ( F# is XXX XOO) so finger E XXX XXO and press the key to sharp the E to F nat
the last ya know also, Eb

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:31 am 
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Quote:
-I read about using meths to clean an old flute - can I use Surgical spirit instead as that is what I have?
-If I use soap and water how do I stop it cracking the wood?
I can't help with all your questions, but I do know that Surgical Spirits has a bitter-tasting oil in it, both to discourage consumption and to help keep the skin supple when used for swabbing. You may want to keep it away from around the blow-hole.
Soap and water will only crack the wood if the wood is allowed to soak up the water. If soap and water is used on a cloth for wiping or swabbing, much like any other cleaning fluid, it shouldn't cause a problem.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:54 am 
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Jem Hammond should be along shortly with many helpful tips. OR, you can track down his Facebook page @ Jemtheflute.
The simple piccolos can be great fun. :party: To get a feel for what they can be like in the hands of a master, Google Flute for the Feis an album of John Doonan playing trad tunes. The very first hit on Google should lead you to Dragut Reis' site, Ceol Alainn where he has posted Doonan's album.

Bob

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:48 am 
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Quote:
easy there...

Sorry about that - couldn't sleep and clearly couldn't stop babbling either!

It's such a long time since I've played the flute that I must admit to having forgotten what the keys on it were, and the "margin of error" thing is making me wonder whether I've bitten off more than I can chew :o . So is John Doonan :boggle: , though in a good way.

However, I'm here now, and it sounds as though a bit more damp cloth shouldn't cause too much trouble if I'm careful. I'm afraid it's too late to keep the surgical spirit away from the blowhole; fortunately it doesn't smell too bad. Perhaps I should have used whiskey...

Thanks everyone!

Fiona

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:59 am 
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Size-wise relative to the descant that looks Bb Band Flute to me, not piccolo. More later when I get at a computer and have a few minutes.....

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:38 am 
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OK.....

First, please can you give us the overall length in mm and the "sounding length", from the centre of the embouchure hole to level with the far, open end. Those will let us confirm the pitch diagnosis fairly well. I'm betting on High Pitch Bb (i.e. an instrument nominally in Bb but built for the old English higher pitch standard of c A=456, not 440 - which would make it a tad flat of being "in B" at 440, FWTW.). You can also confirm this by checking (if it will sound) the 6-finger note (all holes closed) against a piano - if it is near as damn it a B, your toot is HP; if you're lucky, it'll sound a Bb and you'll have a (usable at) concert pitch example.

(Youse guys who've commented above, put your specs on - youm slipping! :D :tomato: )

Cleaning.
(I take it you're in GB, anoia? Where by?)
OK, it doesn't look too bad in the pics (compared to some I've seen!). I don't think it'll need washing. I have done that recently with a very fine old flute which was in chimney like state from old tobacco and beer residues - completely stripped it, then rubbed the wood all over with washing-up liquid, scrubbed the exterior with a soft nail brush and the interior with a bottle brush, then rinsed and scrubbed in warm water - repeated a couple of times but not allowed to soak, let dry, then cleaned with meths. It came to no harm and is playing just fine, back with its owner. This case does not appear to need such drastic measures.
Go buy some meths - a 1/2 litre will cost under £2 in any hardware shop. You won't use all of it, but it keeps indefinitely and is a useful addition to the under sink cupboard or DIY shed, like white spirit (don't use the latter - it wouldn't harm, but it stinks!).

The "short F" key is probably only sticking because of electrolytic corrosion products and stiff, old grease/oil in its axle, but it is possible the spring is tired or cracked. Worry about the latter later.

Take the keys off - make sure you keep their own axle-pins with them individually, but you shouldn't have any difficulty identifying which one belongs to which hole/pillar set because usually they won't fit in the wrong place. Push the pins out a few mm from the side which looks to have the tidiest end (usually one end has been filed smooth/round after being cut off) - use the tip of a small cross-head screw-driver or some other suitable probe. If they are very resistant, try from the other side, though often one end is left slightly burry or is pinched/spread and won't push through. If they still won't shift, you may need an extra pair of hands to hold the flute and something to gently tap the probe to start the pin; or set up a way of squeezing it in a vice if you have one. If such measures are required (probably not), obviously be very careful not to put too much force on the pillars, which could split the wood or tear out. Once the pins are sticking out a few mm, you should be able to twist/pull them out with the nose of a pair of pliers - preferably pointy ones to avoid scratching the wood.

Once the keys are off, you can clean them thoroughly with Brasso &/or metal wadding. Use those also to clean all the other metal parts, including the pillars, before you clean the wood. If the springs will rotate on their rivets, you can clean them and under them too. It will be best to remove the (apparently dead) old pads before cleaning, they - don't look worth saving. Do that by heating the back of the key-cup with a fag-lighter to melt the old shellac or sealing wax which is most likely holding them in (if they're glued, it should help loosen that too) - hold the keys with your pliers if you don't want burnt fingers! The pads should sort-of bubble up and then you can flick them off with a knife or screw-driver. Scrape the residue of adhesive out of the cup and then do your cleaning. Of course, you'll need to get replacement pads - of which more later. Remember to clean the (probably steel, but the wadding or Brasso will do fine) pins and to use a pipe-cleaner to clean the inside of the axle-tubes and pillar-heads. If any of the ferrule rings come off/are loose, don't worry - just tell us.

You have no tuning slide, and I suspect the head will be unlined (no metal tube inside), but you have a stuck joint? You have to get this apart. I thought there was some advice on this on Terry McGee's website (an invaluable resource), but can't (quickly) find it - and I know there are old discussions of it here on C&F (use the search tool). Inside the joint will be either thread or (less likely) cork lapping which will be perished and probably not be secured to the tenon any more and is rotating as you turn the head relative to the body, but bunching up when you try to pull them apart. You have somehow to work them apart until you can (if necessary) start to pick away at the dead lapping with tweezers or a knife point. I'd try using the back of the blade of a knife in the crack you have between head and body and just very gently twist-levering them apart, working around the circumference and not rushing for too swift progress. Try to lever against your fingers, not the shoulder-edge of the body, as that will easily chip. One often finds that, once a few mm have been gained, you can twist the sections apart in the normal way. Don't worry about the old lapping - it will have to be replaced anyway. Do be very careful not to over-force anything, though - you could easily crack the head socket (if it hasn't already got a crack). Patience and persistence!

Once you have the head off, you will need to remove the crown cap and push out the stopper cork (they may, but probably won't on this level of flute, be a screw-adjustable, connected unit) - probably easiest to get a length of dowel (wooden spoon handle will do nicely) which will fit loosely in the bore and push both stopper and crown out from the socket end. There's a good chance the cork may be perished and crumbly - don't worry about that either. Once they're out you can clean the metal parts with Brasso/wadding and then you're ready to use rags and meths to clean the wood. A thin dowel (6mm/1/4") is useful and old cotton rags from dead sheets/pillow-cases are ideal. I usually wrap a rag around a dowel and push a loose amount into the tube from one end, then pour in meths from the other (over a bowl or some such), or you can dip the rag in the meths first. Give the bore a good swabbing (you may need to scrape away cork residue in the head if the stopper cork left bits stuck to the tube walls) and rub down the outside with the meths-damp cloth, attending to any detail with finger-nails through the cloth. Use cloth wrapped around the dowel to clean the embouchure and ditto with something smaller - e.g. a knitting needle - for the tone-holes. Repeat as necessary until you are satisfied.

That's enough for now. Once you get that far, let us know and we can address the re-assembly process and such matters as replacement cork, pads, lapping, oiling and any repair issues that arise, like cracks, broken or breaking springs, loose rings, etc.

To encourage you, once it is clean and has lapping and stopper cork, you can at least stop up the keyed holes with blutack and play it!

Lastly, if you're anywhere in reach of me (N.E. Wales), I'd be happy to help more directly.

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Last edited by jemtheflute on Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:04 am 
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jemtheflute wrote:
(Youse guys who've commented above, put your specs on - youm slipping! :D :tomato: )

I was waiting for NASA to post the new APoD picture so's I could go to bed. :P

I'd had enough relatives over the weekend. :really:

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:40 am 
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Wow!
Thanks for the hugely detailed reply!
Easy bits first:
jemtheflute wrote:
First, please can you give us the overall length in mm and the "sounding length", from the centre of the embouchure hole to level with the far, open end

385mm and 322mm respectively.

Quote:
(I take it you're in GB, anoia? Where by?)

Hertford, unfortunately nowhere near Wales, rather too close to Tottenham for comfort.

I think you are right about the pitch - I had no success trying to match the tone on an electronic keyboard, but clipping a ukulele tuner onto it and asking a teenager what it meant got the response "about 30Hz lower than B".

Off to get some meths before I tackle the tricky bits. I ought to get some for testing the set of jam anyway.

Thanks again for your time

Fiona

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:04 am 
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anoia wrote:
Wow!
Thanks for the hugely detailed reply!

jemtheflute wrote:
First, please can you give us the overall length in mm and the "sounding length", from the centre of the embouchure hole to level with the far, open end

385mm and 322mm respectively.


You're welcome, and welcome aboard C&F!

OK, those dimensions are not at the highest end of the HP range, but you need a SL of about 330-335mm to get down to Bb at A=440. If this one had a tuning slide, you might just about manage it, but it hasn't. It's probably tuned for between 446-450.

Don't forget the metal wadding as well as the meths, and some 6mm dowel!
Keep us posted. Oh, and posting a close-up picture of the embouchure would be a good idea.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:04 am 
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with attention to the lighting of the blowing edge

it is somewhat shadowed in the picture that it appears in

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:51 am 
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Hows that? (I'm assuming the blowing edge is the one you blow towards, so the open end is on the right of the picture.)

Image

I bought some Silvo wadding, and the meths, but forgot the dowel. I have lots of spoons and things though, so I expect there will be something the right size.

Otherwise, I have managed to get off one key - not the sticky one - and can confirm that the pad looks like something that came out of a mummy case, not a musical instrument.

I must go and feed the family though, before I do any more,

Fiona

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:06 am 
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That's good (the picture). Looks to be in good shape. A perpendicular one would be useful too, just to check the shape. Nice looking bit of cocus! (That's the wood.)

A medium gauge knitting needle will do for a cleaning rod, probably, but not a spoon - even a narrow handled one won't get you through the body bore with cloth around it. An alternative is to use a long thin piece of rag, say about 4" wide and 18" long. Tie a piece of string to one corner and feed the string through the body, then pull the cloth through - then you can use your teeth or a helper to hold one end while you hold the other and rub the tube up and down it (after meths-application).

(Edited for typo)

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I respect people's privilege to hold their beliefs, whatever those may be (within reason), but respect the beliefs themselves? You gotta be kidding!

My YouTube channel
Low Bb flute: Xmas Eve & The Providence (audio)
Flute & Music Resources - helpsheet downloads


Last edited by jemtheflute on Tue Aug 09, 2011 3:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

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